Interdisciplinary collaboration is a timely subject as I find myself rushing from meeting to meeting in order to prepare for our Term 3 focus on ‘change makers.’ This unit represents a major shift both organisationally and pedagogically for my school in that it will be the first time that home room teachers and specialist teachers have come together to deliver a single, cohesive body of teaching. Rather than running independent programmes, the two groups will work together to plan, implement and then evaluate the use of a thematic, interdisciplinary and project-based model similar to that described in the Interdisciplinary Learning video (Lacoe Edu, 2014). Although it has been a time-consuming process thus far with significant work to come, the shift to this model is exciting in that it represents a move to more authentic collaboration while also allowing for much great student agency and opportunities for deeper learning.
As a specialist teacher responsible for delivering a digital technology programme to Year 7 and 8 students, I find myself constantly teaching both the language and methodology of curriculum areas that fall outside of the technology curriculum. Whether it is teaching students how to give and receive effective feedback, basic numeracy to enable accurate movement when coding with Scratch or a host of other possibilities, I am working outside of the technology my current area of specialisation. This is critical to their success as the type of problem-solving and practical tasks that they work on in my classroom require them to employ a diverse range of skills. This does not equal an interdisciplinary approach, however, it is just another example of how no teaching occurs in a vacuum and highlights the need for primary teachers to be experts in a diverse range of fields. As I find myself teaching literacy or numeracy skills to learners, I often think of the many opportunities for collaboration that would support student achievement both in my classroom and in the home room but up until now, I have not actually done anything about it. The limitation imposed by the timetable and the fact that technology time represents homeroom teachers’ release time always seemed to make collaboration impossible.
This obstacle has been removed as a result of a whole school decision work in a different way. Interdisciplinary collaboration, defined by Andrews (1990) as a situation where “different professionals, possessing unique knowledge, skills, organizational perspectives, and personal attributes, engage in coordinated problem solving for a common purpose” (cited in Berg-Weger &. Schneider, 1998), is now possible as the barriers that were preventing it have been actively identified and removed. Students will now be able to explore what bothers them and develop and implement an awareness campaign while working across a range of curriculum areas including literacy, numeracy, social sciences, and technology. They will be supported by a range of teachers who will teach the language and methodology of all curriculum areas that are relevant to the students desired outcome. Significant work has been done to ensure that the workplace conditions, attitudes and values and shared vision exist to ensure that meaningful collaboration can occur. For me, this is an exciting and timely development and I look forward to seeing how it turns out.
Berg-Weger, M., &. Schneider, F. D. (1998). Interdisciplinary collaboration in social work education. Journal of Social Work Education, 34, 97-107.